Michal Kwiatkowski celebrated his Milan-San Remo victory with his friends and Team Sky teammates on Saturday night, opening a bottle of champagne with a perfect sabrage action and then partying in Monte Carlo after a hugely successful start to the 2017 season.
Team Sky is at the centre of a complex and serious investigation headed up by UK Anti-Doping relating to Bradley Wiggins, and revelations by former riders continue to hit the team's credibility. However, the riders continue to show their ability out on the road, winning some of the biggest races of the early season. Kwiatkowski won Strade Bianche, Sergio Henao held off an attack from Alberto Contador to win Paris-Nice, and Geraint Thomas would surely have been an overall contender for Tirreno-Adriatico without the wheel failures in the opening team time trial. This week Chris Froome makes his European debut and leads Team Sky at the Volta a Catalunya.
Peter Sagan was the huge favourite for Milan-San Remo and made the decisive attack on the Poggio, but Kwiatkowski was able to go with him and then used the presence of Team Sky sprinter Elia Viviani in the chasing group to save himself for the sprint finish.
Kwiatkowski raced against Sagan at Junior and Under 23 level and he knows how to beat him. Sagan was over generous in the final kilometres and then made the mistake of leading out the sprint in the Via Roma. Kwiatkowski was as smart as Sagan was strong and came off his wheel with a perfectly timed sprint to win by just a few centimetres.
After crossing the line, bumping shoulders with Sagan and being congratulated on a great race by the world champion, Kwiatkowski stopped to hug his girlfriend and was hugged by the Team Sky staff and teammates. He indicated to his agent Giuseppe Acquadro that he won by an inch or so and then rushed to the podium. He was close to tears as the Polish national anthem rang out for the first time in San Remo in the Via Roma.
A few hours after the race, Kwiatkowski tweeted: "I guess that was the sprint of my life at @Milano_Sanremo Incredible @TeamSky" and then celebrated in a Monte Carlo restaurant.
On Sunday Kwiatkowski posed for photographs in Monte Carlo and looked back at his Milan-San Remo victory in an interview with Belgian television channel Sporza.
"Winning Strade Bianche and now having Milan-San Remo in the pocket is incredible. I have two weeks of rest and a little bit of training before Pais Vasco, so we could celebrate a little bit. We went out for a nice dinner and opened a couple of bottles of champagne to celebrate with my girlfriend, my teammates and a some of my friends."
Kwiatkowski was not on Sagan's wheel when the world champion surged clear, a kilometre from the summit of the Poggio. However, he realised it was the move to follow and went with Julian Alaphilippe. They managed to close the gap to Sagan as the other riders suffered behind. Kwiatkowski revealed that he had learnt from his solo attack last year but knew the late three-rider attack would work and that he had a chance against Sagan.
"Out-sprinting Sagan in Milan-San Remo was a very difficult thing but I truly believed that I could make it… and yeah I did," he said, still struggling to believe it and also thanking Sagan for his attack.
"I'm very happy that I could be part of the great show Sagan made on the Poggio. I'm actually thankful to him that he made that choice to go on the attack."
The quietly spoken 26-year-old Polish rider endured a difficult first season with Team Sky in 2016. He won E3 Harelbeke but plans to combine a cobbled and Ardennes Classic campaign failed and he struggled to finish stage races for the rest of the season. It seems illness and over training were the cause but Kwiatkowski has preferred not to explain why but he followed a far more gradual winter regime and opted to miss the cobbled Classics and focus on the Ardennes.
"I'm skipping the cobbles this year. I'm very sad about it because there's a special atmosphere in Belgium but I have to specialise into something and I'm aiming for good results in the Ardennes; I can't combine both the cobbles and the Ardennes Classics," he explained.
"I was thinking that the first Monument that'd I'd like to win is Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but now I've won Milan-San Remo which is great. But of course, the maximum focus will be for Liege-Bastogne-Liege."
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